Who Matters to Teens? Parents Matter!
As a parent, you matter more to your children than anybody or anything else in their lives. Too many parents underestimate the influence and impact they have in their tweens’ and teens’ lives. It is critical that you understand how much you do matter, otherwise you may miss the opportunity to shape your child’s future and keep him or her safe today.
As we notice our children spending more time with their friends and talking to us less, we may imagine they care less about what we think or say. Experts speaking only on the importance of peers, may leave parents thinking we matter little. Accepting these concepts may do real damage to our family lives.
Talk with Your Teen
You matter. Now go talk to your teen about what matters. If you know parents who feel powerless and feel they can’t keep up with the pace of peer culture, pass this piece along to them.
Real Factors, Mistaken Conclusions
Let’s examine real factors that lead some people to mistakenly conclude that parents don’t matter.
- Children spend more time with peers as they enter adolescence. This is partly due to the fact that they spend most of their days in school and often go straight on to extracurricular activities.
- A core developmental task of adolescence is to learn to navigate the peer world. This prepares them for the workplace, adult friendships, and ultimately romantic relationships.
- Young people are more likely to make unwise decisions when in the company of peers who expect them to do so.
Now, let’s begin to imagine your influence even while accepting all of the above is true. Let’s start with the fact that peer pressure is not always bad. Peers also influence others to work hard in school, participate in community service activities, express their creative sides, and push their athletic limits. You cannot choose your child’s friends, but you can influence who they are likely to connect with. You can support involvement in the kinds of activities where they are going to find positive peers and you can nurture those friendships that are healthiest. A word of strong caution here: choosing your children’s friends too actively or criticizing the friends they choose can backfire. Next, you can equip your adolescent with the peer negotiation skills that will enable him to recognize and respond to peer pressure.
The Influence of Parents VS Peers
Many parents underestimate the impact they have on their tweens’ and teens’ lives. Too often, they mistakenly think friends hold more influence. Learn about some real-life reasons behind these misconceptions and why parents matter!
Quantity of Time Spent With Peers
Youth may seem to spend more time with peers than parents during adolescence. It’s partly because they spend long days in school together. But it’s the quality -- not quantity -- of time spent that’s truly important.
As part of adolescent development, teens must learn to maneuver the ins and outs of friendships and other relationships. It’s a normal and important part of growing up to pull away from parents as they do so.
Friends and peers can have positive and negative influence on children. Parents can influence the odds that teens are surrounded by positive peer groups by encouraging participation in a variety of healthy activities.
Talking to Parents Less
It’s common for teens to talk less to parents and more with friends. But when it comes down to it, teens want to know and value their parents’ opinions -- especially on tough topics such as sex and drug use.
Your influence over your child is not in competition with peer influence. It exists on its own right. Children of all ages — including adolescents — want to please their parents. When they know what you care about, and what expectations you hold for them — they will try to meet them.
- Young people rely on their parents to learn about the rules of society. This was true when you taught them how to take turns when they were three and is true in adolescence when you teach them the rules of the road and prepare them for how to present themselves for their first job interview.
- Adolescents rely on their parents to set the boundaries around safety. They need to test their limits but do so best within clearly set boundaries.
- Adolescents care about our values and want to know what is important to us. They seek guidance from us on what it means to be a good person.
- Adolescents want to know their parents’ opinions about substance use and healthy sexuality and value those opinions more than they do that of their friends. “Whaaaat?!?,” you ask. Yes, we’ve seen this time and again both in real-life examples from across the country as well as what we’ve learned from long-term scientific research. We are our adolescents most valuable and desired teachers. Us. Not peers. Not the media. Us.
- Ready to cry? More than anything, our children want us to be well and happy. Children and adolescents are most secure when they know their parents are okay. So, you want to know how to best influence your child? Show them a healthy, responsible adult. Be the person you want to see as a reflection in your child’s eyes.